Nuclear Facility Cleanup

Centralized Contracting of Laboratory Analysis Would Produce Budgetary Savings Gao ID: RCED-95-118 May 8, 1995

The Energy Department (DOE), responsible for cleaning up the massive contamination arising from more than 50 years of production at nuclear weapons facilities, estimates that this effort could cost as much as $1 trillion and take more than 30 years to complete. Laboratory analyses--of soil and water, for example--needed to assess contamination at these facilities are expected to cost at least $15 billion. Under DOE's decentralized approach, contractors independently obtain such analyses through either commercial laboratories or contractor-run laboratories. In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the cleanup of Superfund sites, contracts for these analyses on a centralized basis. DOE pays substantially higher prices than EPA does for the same types of analyses at commercial laboratories. GAO concludes that DOE dilutes its massive buying power by procuring its commonly used analyses on a piecemeal basis through its contractors. The results of DOE's contracting approach are higher prices and unnecessary costs arising from duplication of the contractors' efforts. Without centralizing its laboratory analysis procurements, DOE will not reap the cost benefits resulting from its enormous buying power.

GAO found that: (1) DOE pays substantially higher prices than EPA for the same types of commercial laboratory analyses; (2) while savings could be achieved through centralization, the amount of savings is difficult to measure; (3) unlike DOE, EPA conducts two procurements for organic and inorganic analyses for Superfund sites, while the decentralized DOE approach results in numerous inefficiencies, such as contractors performing redundant quality assurance evaluations at numerous commercial laboratories; and (4) DOE has recently identified 17 initiatives designed to improve many phases of its laboratory analysis program, but it does not plan to change its decentralized approach to laboratory analyses.


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